Back in the dark days of The Troubles, Gerry Conlon was in the wrong place at the wrong time and spent seventeen years in prison for a crime he didn't do. His story was made into a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Powerful stuff, all based on fact and not the only case of innocent people being railroaded for bombings perpetrated by the IRA. You'd think that was all in the past, with the Belfast Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement and the Chuckle Brothers touring the world.
It isn't quite over yet.
Ten years ago, a bomb went off in Omagh, County Tyrone. and twenty-nine people died. The police knew it was the Real IRA who did it, and they promptly arrested Sean Gerard Hoey. All sorts of evidence, they said, and the man was tried and convicted and put in jail, where he sat for almost five years, waiting for justice.
Yesterday, Mr. Justice Weir issued a verdict in Mr. Hoey's appeal. Not guilty on all counts.
And then the judge reamed the police department for bungling the case and worse.
Yes, well, ahem, went the British army witness. Some evidence may have been forensically altered. The black tape you see on the device in the pictures? Wasn't there when the device was picked up at the scene of the bombing.
Yes, well, ahem, went a crime officer. The evidence taken from another bombing that we said linked Mr. Hoey to the Omagh bombing? That looks to have been altered as well. The label on some car bomb evidence had the date changed.
Evidence was stored haphazardly, records of evidence were less than ideal, and that led to the possibility of contamination. So there goes any DNA analysis out the window.
What about the FBI spy who had infiltrated the Real IRA? Sorry, he never said a word about Sean Gerard Hoey in relation to the Omagh bombing, and the man provided 2000 pages of reports and named 100 names.
Sean Hoey lost four years of his life, but the families of the victims have lost their chance to ever see justice for their loved ones. The case was bungled from the start by zealots who were convinced they had their man and manipulated the evidence to suit their aim. What was done with the evidence cannot be undone, and once again, the real killers go free.